Department of Plant Biotechnology
The department of Phytoenergy and Biodiversity consists of several working groups which are focused on the following areas of research:
- Search for sources of natural resistance to important harmful organisms of woody ornamentals and their use for protecting future plantings
- Research of in vitro propagation methods for rescuing endangered species and preservation of genetic resources of ornamental plants
- Evaluation of genetic variability of tree species using DNA analysis for protecting endangered species and for breeding of fast-growing trees
- Plant taxonomy focused on the evaluation of morphological variation and biogeography of selected woody plants genera
Regarding phytopathology and plant protection, the long term research goal is focused on finding a source of natural resistance to important harmful organisms of woody plants in the Czech Republic. The selected resistant genotypes would create the ecological protection of future plantings in the human environment. The two most important problems of horse chestnuts in Europe, mining moth Cameraria ohridella (CO) and bacterial infection Pseudomonas syringae pv. aesculi (Pae), are currently studied. The cultivar ´Mertelik´, resistant to mining of CO was created and is being vegetatively propagated by grafting and by methods of micro-propagation in vitro for future plantings. The seedling of several genotypes showing resistant behaviour to Pae in artificial inoculation tests were selected and are subject to further research. Several clones of hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) resistant to Erwinia amylovora (the cause of fire blight of family Rosaceae) were also created and are being kept in vitro conditions as a gene pool for practical use. The occurrence of harmful organisms and conditions of poplar (Populus) and willow (Salix) in short rotation coppices is studied. The long term evaluation of pests’ occurrence and diseases of ornamental plants is carried out. The collection of 26 ornamental plant viruses isolated in the Czech Republic are maintained under the Czech National Programme on Protection of genetic Resources of Economically Significant Microorganisms and Tiny Animals.
The research is focused on the investigation of genetic variability of tree species using molecular markers (microsatellites, AFLP) for the protection of endangered species and for the breeding of fast-growing trees. Genetic diversity and population structure in natural populations of black poplar (Populus nigra), sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and European larch (Larix decidua) are studied. The possible use of microsatellites in the black poplar breeding for the biomass production is verified. Genetic analyses of hybrid clones Spiraea × billardii including its considered parents and other related taxa are performed. In the following period, the research will also focus on evaluation of the genetic diversity of willows (Salix) suitable for phytoremediation and on DNA fingerprinting of resistant clones of horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).
The plant tissue culture laboratory deals with the propagation and preservation of genetic resources of plants under sterile conditions. The advantage of in vitro techniques is the possibility of culture cultivation under controlled light and temperature conditions as well as a well-defined chemical composition of the nutrient media. The controlled culture conditions improve the propagation rate and reduce the period of growing cultures. These techniques are often used for plant genotypes that are difficult to propagate using classical methods and are a great benefit for the rapid multiplication of resistant clones in breeding programs. Under the National Program on Conservation and Utilization of genetic resources of plants, animals and micro-organisms collections of ornamental species were created in vitro, focusing on the most important clones and cultivars. In particular they are vegetatively propagated species such as chrysanthemums, dahlias and petunias. In vitro germplasm protects against contamination especially viral infections. Worth noticing is the dahlia cultivar 'Švitorka', which dates from 1934 and is one of the oldest Czech extant dahlia cultivars. From woody species selected cultivars of rhododendrons are maintained. The laboratory has also dealt long-term with some endangered species, mainly daphne and pasqueflower. A unique collection of rose daphne, which includes clones from the entire country even from sites where this species has not been confirmed for several years, was created. Original micropropagation protocol for spring pasqueflower, which can be used for rescue programs not only in this country but also abroad, was created.
Plant taxonomy based on classic methods focuses on the evaluation of morphological variation and biogeography of selected woody plant genera, chiefly pines (the genus Pinus), also some other coniferous (Pinaceae) genera (fir – Abies, spruce – Picea), and spireas (the genus Spiraea from Rosaceae family) in the world scope. Within the genus Pinus several taxa new for science were described in our department, i.e., five species, eight subspecies or varieties and four interspecific hybrids, mostly from SE Asia. Furthermore, a taxonomic revision and an illustrated determination key of all world pine members were elaborated as a separate monograph. Within the genus Spiraea (with the most abundant species diversity in China, from where many species are cultivated in the Czech Republic) a taxonomic revision of Chinese members of two evolutionarily most derived groups Glomeratae and Chamaedryon was published (in the American journal Novon) including a description of new species and variety. Also an English written monograph about all Spiraea species supported with evidence during the cultivation history of this genus in the Czech Republic and Slovakia was elaborated including evaluation of their success in gardening in our conditions. In addition to the mentioned genera new species of the genus Potentilla (Rosaceae family) from inner Tibet in China, and a new endemic Czech species of the genus Dactylorhiza (Orchidaceae family) and its hybrids were described. Expert specialization in the classification of Southeast Asian pines and spireas, based on extensive authentic knowledge of natural populations and their documentation, represents worldwide contribution.